Buckeye Defeat Walsh in Exhibition
By Rob Ogden
COLUMBUS, Ohio - Playing for the first time in the post-Deshaun Thomas era, Ohio State defeated Walsh 93-63 in an exhibition game Sunday inside Value City Arena.
Coach Thad Matta used a nine-man rotation to replicate the offense lost without Thomas, who led the Buckeyes with 20 points per game last season before declaring for the NBA Draft.
Photo by Jim Davidson
Senior Lenzelle Smith Jr. and junior LaQuinton Ross led the Buckeyes with 15 points a piece.
Three other Buckeyes finished in double figures as Ohio State spread the ball around without a go-to scorer.
Senior point guard Aaron Craft finished with 14 points, sophomore Amedeo Della Valle had 13 and junior Sam Thompson added 12.
Before the season, Matta said he wanted more balanced scoring. Sunday, he got it.
"I think this team's going to be that way, in terms of who's the leading scorer, I have no idea," Matta said.
Craft, Ross, Smith, Amir Williams and Shannon Scott got the start for the Buckeyes, and junior center Trey McDonald was the first off the bench.
Matta said Scott got the start over Thompson because he had a phenomenal week of practice leading up to the game. He added that the lineup might change from game to game.
All nine Buckeyes who saw the floor finished with at least 15 minutes of action.
Della Valle, who saw little meaningful playing time last season, played 21 minutes. Della Valle said he is a much more complete player than he was a year ago, when he was known primarily just as a shooter.
Freshman forward Marc Loving, appearing in his first-ever game as a Buckeye, played 21 minutes and fished with 5 points and 9 rebounds.
Loving said he was a little surprised that he got as much playing time as he did, and added that all the pre-game jitters were gone by the time the ball was tipped.
"I just wanted to contribute any way I could," Loving said. "Today it was rebounding and playing defense because we really worked on that all week in practice. I see there's some windows of opportunity and just whatever I can scrape up and get any type of minutes, just put energy out there on the floor and production in rebounds and playing defense or whatever it is."
Loving shot just 1-8 from the field and 3-7 at the free-throw line, but Matta said he's not concerned with the freshman's ability to put the ball in the basket.
"He didn't shoot the ball particularly well but we've seen him make shots," Matta said. "I think that will come, maybe freshman jitters. I was very pleased with the way he pursued that ball off the glass."
Matta wasn't pleased with the way the Buckeyes played defensively, especially in the second half, when they surrendered 37 points.
Walsh shot about the same from the field in the second half as it did in the first, but had many more opportunities to get up shots as the Buckeyes allowed the Cavaliers to drive the lane.
"Our ability to guard the basketball down the stretch was horrendous," Matta said. "We looked surprised when they were driving the basketball. Rotations weren't there. That's got to be who we are."
Williams struggled offensively early-on, but finished with eight points, a team-leading 10 rebounds, five blocks and three steals.
"We knew we came out flat," Williams said. "After the first media timeout coach told us we had to come out and play better, play stronger, and try to get stops defensively because we were allowing too many dribble drives and stuff like that."
LaQuninton Ross played without a cast on his right hand for the first time in a week, Matta said. Ross was experiencing inflammation in his shooting hand, and had been practicing left-handed.
Matta added that Ross' hand healed quickly when he told the junior that he would have to start playing all-time defense in practice.
Matta called Ross' performance Sunday "okay." He said that Ross needs to be more locked in defensively.
Freshman Kam Williams did not play. Williams missed a month of practice with mononucleosis, though Matta said they hope he'll be able to return to practice this week.
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